Police Brutality is a major issue in African countries and Nigeria’s case is not different…..
Tunde Abass, an activist, has been a victim of police extortion and harrasment as at many times, according to him, but the one he faced few weeks ago was that of police brutality, and one that he didn’t expect to come his way as at the time it did, leaving him with serious injuries. What exactly happened? Let’s hear from him as I ask the several questions necessary.
Tunde Abass’ Story on Police Brutality—–The Interview
I didn’t find it funny—Tunde Abass on his police brutality experience
VisionBoy: Sir, can you brief us on how you were arrested by the police officer?
Tunde Abass: My Name is Tunde Abass. I was a victim of police brutality 2weeks ago.
It was on the 20th of March (2021) at Onipanu (Lagos) I was there to visit a friend of mine, I was at Abraham Adesanya Plaza.
Upstairs,I was just on the passage when I heard a woman shouting “this is unfair!”, as I looked back I saw a police dragging with a motorist, and in the process of trying to deflate the tyre of the guy , I saw his wife who had a baby on her back with the baby almost falling in the process that’s what made me to use my camera (mobile phone).I started shouting that “this in justice” and that “why are they trying to deflate the tyre and the baby almost falling of the woman’s back!” This is what led to my arrest. There’s no much that is attached to the arrest.
VisionBoy: What happened as the time you were brought to the police station?
I was detained there till Saturday/Sunday.
On that Saturday evening, I was forced to write a statement under duress,so i refused so they started beating me again, beating me on my stomach, using their leg to press my neck on the ground, claiming that I am proving stubborn. I was really beaten…. I was really beaten.
VisionBoy: Harassed for trying to defend a harassed.
Tunde Abass: They tried to frame me up that I am part of the people who burnt down a police station during the #EndSARS Protest. That I’ve promised to burn it down, I stood my ground that I am not going to write any statement They start making comments to frame up, they wrote a statement on their own, covering parts of it and force me to thumbprint, that I should I sign, I refused to sign;all kinds of comment that they will kill me, that I call myself a freedom fighter,that they will teach me a lesson, that they are going to send me to jail.
I was there till Sunday evening, on Monday they asked me if I am ready to put down a statement, I refused saying that I need to see my lawyer or my family friend. they slapped me, cursed, beated me,claiming that I hate police. I told them that I don’t hate police that I hate police impunity, extortion and injustice.
We got to Yaba Magistrate Court on Monday Morning, a female prosecutor (lawyer) asked my side of the story, told them to free me that I should apologize to them and that next time i should mind my business, that I shouldn’t video police officers.
Getting back to Onipanu, I was very happy, thinking that they are going to release me, not knowing that they were not pleased with the outcome of the court. The DPO amd the police was not satisfied with the court’s judge. The took me to Panti, State CID, Yaba, because some of my fellow comrades and lawyers monitoring of my movement the legal department didn’t give them any pleasant response for them to detain them further. I had however made of my mind that I will be detained at Panti.
Unsatisfied, they took me to Pedro Police Station, the DPO there, quickly accepted me and order my detainment in a dark cell. The DPO at Pedro ordered and warned the police officers that nobody should have access to phones because of me because they don’t want anyone to know my whereabouts, because they believe that if I have access to phone I will call my fellow comrades.
On Tuesday evening, Someone came, from the PPRO office, that my case has gone viral online, that the PPRO is interested in my case, that’s Mr Muyiwa Adejobi, Lagos State PPRO (Police Public Relations Officer). He was the one who finally released me.. That Tuesday….. was on the 24th.
VisionBoy: Why is the Nigeria Police Force after “statements”?
Tunde Abass: its to frame up that I am part of the people who burnt down a station during the #EndSARS protest That’s their trademark, they like to frame people up. I noticed that after the #EndSARS Protest , the police sees every average youth, every average Nigerian as their enemy, they take it as a revenge Claiming, that they thought that they thought we said that we don’t want police.That why the are trying to force me to write the statement.You can check my interviews on BBC Pidgin and Sahara Reporters so that everyone can learn about my experience.
Tunde Abass’ On How Nigerians can Stop Police Brutality
Our fear of death will not prevent death—–Tunde Abass
Tunde Abass: My advise for every Nigerian is to be bold and courageous enough . Our fear of death will not prevent death. Let us be our brother’s keeper. Let us fight for eachother, whenever we see injustice, lawlessness and impunity let us soro soke (speak out).Because if we try to keep our lives so much we will just lose it for nothing.
Being unconcerned and minding our business is what let the level the injustice, lawlessness and impunity and oppression increase in this country, Nigeria. Anywhere we see police brutality let us condemn it.
Again, let us use our camera. In one of the case their oga asked them that where is it in the law of Nigeria that you can record a policeman. In developed countries, policemen wear body camera to record the scenario.
Don’t fear, it is your case, it is our right to record anything because that’s our evidence. Use your phone! Because the average Nigerian policeman is meant to lie, you don’t need to insult them but you need to stand on your right. Don’t be afraid of their AK 47 that ” their going to kill me oh” so many people are in jail simply because they are not bold enough, try to read the Nigerian Constitution to know your rights. That’s my advise for everyone.
VisionBoy: That’s true we need to love our brothers as ourselves…..The social media have become a tool for Nigerian youths.
When you were in the cell, were thee other prisoners there with you? How did you relate with them/interact with them?
Tunde Abass: Yes, the time I was in the cell,especially Onipanu, on Saturday, I met one detainee who treated me badly, I discovered that one IPO, Mr Kayode when he was about to close on the night of that Saturday……. I don’t know what he discussed with the detainee, the guy is very huge.
Maybe he is a drug addict,they way he used to talk, he used to talk alone, in a language I don’t understand. I just ignore him but after some minutes, unexpectedly, he started blowing me, so we started fighting in the cell. I called the attention of the police but they were just laughing at me that I should camera him as well, that i hate police, but I was very tired because I was bleeding on my mouth, my nose.
In the mid-night,I didn’t sleep till daybreak, sometime if I just close my eyes, he will come to kick my stomach, when I call the attention of the police they will just laugh and signal to the guy to stop beating me.
At Pedro Police Station, they were very angry with me because they used to have access to phone a police officer will bring to call their families, but since I got there, I spent close to 18 hours there, they didn’t allow anybody to have access to phone, most of them didn’t understand only few if them understood.
VisionBoy: I understand that those at Pedro who didn’t understand might have felt that you presence affected them. Was there any policeman or woman who was different, that you can say “this is a different police officer”, or, there was none?
Tunde Abass: Some of them ,in Onipan Station almost like 85 per cent were against me, it was just bout 3 to 4 of them, that were different, that had pity on me said that I should beg the DPO so that I can be released, the rest insulted me, called me a Yahoo Boy, a kidnapper, said I will end up in jail. The majority of them supported the way I was treated. A policeman came in beat me with belt in the cell saying that I am very lucky, that if he had been on duty that day that he would have deleted me. So many things.
At the other police station, Pedro, all the police officers avoided me because the DPO there, has warned them that he will sack anyone of them that came close to me, I was just alone in the dark cell.
VisionBoy: What do you consider to be a solution for police brutality in Nigeria? In the developed world, there are ways to prevent police excesses like we saw in the case of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests. What can we do to have a better Nigeria Police?
If we want to have a good police force in this country,the whole/entire police force needs reform—-Tunde Abass
Tunde Abass: What I observed is that the way forward for the Nigeria Police is through thorough training , and they should he paid well they need to to reform the entire Nigeria Police Force, they need to be trained. If we want to have a good police force in this country,the whole/entire police force need reform. They should recruit competent people, I think, at least graduates, because majority of them are illiterates. They should be investigated their character right from their childhood, in their community.
Without a proper reform, police brutality, oppression and impunity will continue.
VisionBoy: What about people in the positions of Commissioner of Police, DPO, IGP (Inspector Gen eral of Police) AIG (Assistant Inspector General) that have oppressive nature at least they went to either university or polytechnic if these are seen doing what the policeman at the bottom of the hierarchy is doing, how do we explain it? Is it that those at the bottom level do not have education, or it is more of “character”and the system that we practise in our country, Nigeria?
They want to continue that process of killing us extorting us, harassing. If the police did their job we wouldn’t protest about #EndSARS and don’t let anybody deceive you and some media….that they have end SARS, they are doing this this to reform……..They are not doing anything.
Tunde Abbas: What I observe is that it has become a culture of inpunity. So it goes down to the systemic problem we have as a country, so there is the need for a serious revolutionary process to revolutionize the mind of the people we recruit into the police for as a country. A police man needs to be fair and just in all his dealings because they are the ones to fizzle out all the criminal activities in the country. Those are the things we need to consider too about the general problem we have.
That’s why you made mention that despite AIG, IG and Commissioner of Police being educated. That why we need to go down to the root causes of everything; a total reform, character reform, all kinds of reforms need to be done in the Nigeria Police Force to have good policing
VisionBoy: I consider in my opinion that what can lead to the long-lasting and total reform of the Nigeria Police Force (and the entire Nigerian nation) is the making of a brand new Constitution as the 1999 Constitution isn’t efficient for Nigeria’s democracy ( and neither is the current Nigeria Police Force Act). We need a new one written and passed by the people, the citizens.
Tunde Abass: What I will advise the Nigerian youth to do now, let us continue to speak out, we have no other choice, because failure to do that will mean that they will continue to: kill us, extort us and harass us. Before we can summon that courage to unite as youths to organize that #EndSARS protest, before the government sponsored hoodlums to truncate the process of the protest.
In the process of you minding your business , you can become a victim of police brutality, most of them because they closed their lips police will just raid people on the way and dump them in prison, some will say bring #30,000 if you can’t bail yourself.
The rate of injustice and lawlessness is rising everyday because we have refused to speak out against injustice We are so scared of losing our lives, as if our fear will determine if our longetivity…..how long we will spend in life. That’s my advice for Nigerians.
SARS has not ended, they just changed their uniform to normal police,their approach, their attitude and character is still the same! the last time I went there to the commissioner’s office,I saw them last week at Alausa, the Commissioner was there, the PPRO was there. I was there to testify against two officers, part of the officers,that brutalised me. They are there! In Command, in Ikeja.
We didn’t say we don’t need police,we are not enemies of the police, we are just against their impunity. We all need police for safety of lives and property. I am not against Nigeria Police, I am just against their lawlessness,harassment and intimidation. So, we must continue to speak out, thank you, that’s my advice.
(Tunde Abass on his advise for Nigerians’ to stand up to police brutality)
How to Prevent Police Brutality in Nigeria
Know Your Fundamental Human Rights:
Some of which pertain to stopping police brutality are: the right to freedom from physical torture, the right to freedom from detainment for more than 24 hours, bail is free, the right to be assumed innocent until proven guilty, the right to seek redress etc. All these and more are in the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, it takes the government to respect and guard them and it take the citizens to know and fight for them.
Solidarity against Illegitimate Arrest/ Police Harassment of Fellow citizens
If any Nigerian is clearly being harassed, all present there should come together to foil the illegitimate arrest or harassment in numbers that move. The police officers whether 2 or more will leave without further trouble because he/she will be aware that what he/she is doing is unconstitutional and goes against the standard of proper policing, moreso, many citizens have gathered to question his/her action.
Identifying Citizen Institutions:
You can contact Amnesty International Nigeria, a non -governmental organization that supports human rights advocacy mail them here .There are many/other civil society organizations (and human rights organization) but I just brought out Amnesty International Nigeria because they are very active in their advocacy for freedom of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. Nigeria Police Force might not be a judge in its own case but at least you will know you have tried your best.
Moreso, the #EndSARS saw a mission of Nigerian youths coming under a united banner, once in a very long time, to speak to the government,to speak to the authority——-so it was commendable.
What we need to do now is to identify the institutions that every Nigerian can meet to address police brutality in Nigeria:
While it may be true that these offices may have been corrupted , we have to do what we can if not we won’t leave our “seats”.In the United States of America, for example, Rosa Parks, a black American woman refused to give her seat to a white despite the then lawful segregation and racial discrimination and that her action sparked a significant mark in Black America human rights activism. Let’s borrow a leaf from that.
Let’s make the best use of what we have to get the best of what we need.There are some steps we can take to address police brutality in Nigeria as we cannot leave for the government as Nigeria is currently structured, the Nigeria Police is affected , all most all institutions are affected.
When I hear cases of police brutality, I wonder that, ” is it not the police uniform that confers authority upon a policeman or woman, if that uniform is not with him/her tomorrow and he/she becomes a victim of police/armed force brutality, how many people will he/she l that he/she was a police officer before?”That’s why it pays to do good in any position one finds him/her
How the Nigerian Government Can Stop Police Misconduct in Nigeria
The Nigerian Government needs to ensure that the Nigeria Police Academy and Nigeria Defence Academy teach police officers democratic studies and fundamental human rights so that these policemen and women
will be aware of human rights and will begin to protect them rather than abuse them.
I have written a complete policy suggestion template on how to reform the Nigeria Police Force
We cannot expect something functioning ineffectively to start functioning efficiently, there are somethings we need to put in place.
By God’s Grace, if we can do all these we’ll begin to see positive development in Nigeria’s policing.
To Our Audience:Tunde Abass, an activist, was a victim of police brutality this year. I scheduled him for this interview based on his experience and I do hope that every Nigerian citizen can gain one or two things from this interview and interactive discussion.
TO MR TUNDE ABASS: Thanks for honouring and attending this interview and for sharing your wealth of experience and opinion on addressing police brutality in Nigeria. Your final word?
Tunde Abass: Yes, my final word for evey Nigerian is that we should be bold and courageous enough to speak, because we just have to speak against oppression and injustice,anywhere we see a policeman doing unprofessionally let us challenge it, we don’t need to insult them but you can use your android (smartphone), if you are are afraid, you can record it from a distant and send it to a complainant number I will drop here and make your report.
It is because we refused to speak that’s why the level of lawlessness and oppression has increased.
God will protect us and preserve us from police brutality.
Thank you very much.